First week of the summer holidays and the weather is crap. Of course it is. Just as we prepare to that the TBIR roadshow down to Wales we get dull grey skies and rain. So we delayed heading off until later in the day, and as we were heading west it would be rude not to take in a game on the way. The old TBIR crystal ball came out (far more accurate than that Paul the Octopus fellow) and the name Wealdstone floated up through the mist.
It is hard to imagine that just thirty years ago Wealdstone were probably the most feared team in the non-leagues (and in the lower reaches of the Football League as well). In those days the Football League was a closed shop, with the 92 clubs all trying to keep the status quo and young upstarts like Wealdstone out of their top table. Despite winning every trophy going in the non-leagues including the Gola League (the forerunner of today’s Blue Square Premier), Wealdstone were kept out.
During this period players like Stuart Pearce and Vinny Jones earnt their stripes at the club, making them one of the most uncompromising teams around. The FA Trophy victory at Wembley in May 1985 against Boston United turned out to the their high point, before they fell down the divisions, finding themselves in the Isthmian League before long and more importantly homeless when chairman Alan Clifton sold their ground to Tesco.
Yeading, Edgeware Town and Northwood kindly hosted Wealdstone over the next decade or so before the club at last the club settled on a ground once owned by Ruislip Manor, and in August 2008 Tonbridge Angels became the clubs first visitors at their new home.
Last season started well for the club but the the harsh winter took its toll on fixtures, and despite having games in hand towards the end of the season, the Ryman’s League rejected a claim to extend the season and Wealdstone became one of the clubs forced to play 3 or 4 games a week in the final month of the season as we reported here.
So this season could be their year? Assuming the weather is not too cruel, and the Ryman’s league actually have some sense (I know fact chance of that based on their recent decisions regarding Grays Athletic and Boreham Wood), then Wealdstone could be there or there abouts come the end of the season.
Our pre-season experience so far had been pretty good. Four games so far and thirteen goals. Tonight saw the visit of Dagenham & Redbridge. And where Dagenham go, so does Dagenham Dan. He’d been to Dorchester Town and Staines Town in the past week following his team so the chance of another new ground was hard to miss. Saturday’s win at Blue Square South Staines had been memorable for one of those rarely seen football screw ups when someone forgot the kit.
Wealdstone 1 Dagenham & Redbridge 3 – The Vale – Monday 26th July
Rule 1 for clubs. When you have a game on try cooking some food before the gates open. At 7.15pm with a couple of hundred people in the ground a discussion was going on in the “tea bar” as to whether they should bother cooking any food at all. This was after the umpteenth person had been turned away as they had no “hot options”.
Rule 2 for clubs playing pre-season friendlies. Avoid actually printing the line ups in the programme as they are always massively wrong. In this case out of the starting 22 listed, only 5 actually started!
Wealdstone have a star of their own off the pitch. Matchday announcer Peter Jon Baptiste is a well known figure to most travelling England Fans and is dry sense of humour extends across the airways at the Vale. “Welcome to all Dagenham fans, all except Dan Campbell (aka Dagenham Dan) with his stupid red coat on” was a good opening. Dagenham were here as part of the deal that took Graeme Montgomery across London last year.
Again, this was a friendly played without that friendly spirit. There were niggles, dives, arguments and histrionics and that made it very entertaining. Dagenham always looked likely to score, and despite some good early saves from Wealdstone’s Mcweeney in goal it was 2-0 at half time as Tomlin first headed unmarked into the net and then capitalised on a defensive mistake to make it two.
Half time saw the rain fall just as I got my “hot” chips. Smothered with mayo, rain does not make an ideal condiment and despite taking shelter under the strange corner structure that looked like that building at the end of the Blair Witch Project. John Still sat his troops down on the pitch a la Phil Brown style and gave them a “debrief” before subbing them all for the second half. The Dagenham bench had brought their own flasks of coffee, and spent the second half trying to spray Deep Heat up each others shorts – you get the feeling that in three weeks when they roll up to Hillsborough they may get a bit of a culture shock having come so far so quickly.
Two become three shortly after half time as Josh Scott pounced on a goalkeeping mistake and it was game over. It made a novel change to see football played in the dark after so many long summer’s nights but just reminded you of what was to come.
Wealdstone got some reward for their efforts as Greg Ngoyi volleyed home a smart goal after some good work down the left hand side. A good run out for both teams in the end and a perfect start to our week on the road. Y bêl yn rownd
For a view from last season when Lewes visited in the FA Cup click here.
About The Vale
The St.Georges Stadium, to give it its proper name, has been Wealdstone’s home for a couple of years now and they seem quite at home at last. The ground holds just over 2,300 with seating for around 300 in a small narrow stand that runs along the side of the pitch. There are a couple of covers around the rest of the pitch should the weather deem it necessary. The one thing that Wealdstone does have is a bar or two, easily big enough to cope with the thirstiest of away followings.
In one corner is a strange looking structure, left over from long a year which no one could tell me what it actually was. Behind the goal where the changing rooms are you will find the club shop and the refreshments bar, with a net protecting the queue from the often wayward shooting on the pitch. One unusual feature is the concrete walls that runs behind this area as each panel is sponsored, including one by the team itself.
How to get to The Vale
From the M1: Follow Signs for Heathrow Airport on the M25. Come off at Junction 16 onto the A40, come off at The Polish War Memorial junction A4180 sign posted to Ruislip, continue on West End Road, right into Grosvenor Vale after approx 1.5 miles, the ground is at the end of the road.
From the M25: Follow Take Junction 16 Off M25 onto A40. Then Come Off at The Polish War Memorial junction A4180 sign posted to Ruislip, continue on West End Road, right into Grosvenor Vale after approx 1.5 miles, the ground is at the end of the road.
From Ruislip Manor Station (Metropolitan Line) turn left out of the station, then 1st right into Shenley Avenue, 3rd left into Cranley Drive, the ground is 50 yards on the left. From Ruislip Station (Metropolitan Line) Turn left and walk up the stairs turn left again and go over the bridge into West End Road, walk down approx 200 yards and turn left into Grosvenor Vale. From Ruislip Gardens (Central Line). Turn right into West End Road and keep going for approx 1/2 mile turn right into Grosvenor Vale, the ground is at the end of the road.
Thanks to the club for providing these directions.
How to get a ticket for The Vale
Tickets are £10 for Adults and £5 for concessions for most games, although sometimes the club run some specific promotions. If you hold a season ticket for any other club (apart from the one who Wealdstone are playing) then there is 50% off entry.